Remember that old story about the guy who walked down the street without any clothes on? No, not “Naked Harold Goes To Market”, I’m referring to the lesser-known tale from Hans Christian Andersen, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. An ostentatious Emperor is duped by two swindlers into thinking he was adorned by fantastic robes woven of a fabric invisible to those either unfit for their position or just hopelessly stupid. He immediately parades his new attire through his empire and, although obviously starkers, is met with unanimous praise and admiration from subjects ironically choosing to uphold the farce for fear of ridicule and ostracism.
Invisible robes are the cash cow of the music industry. Dubious faces form an endless public precession and we are expected to dutifully accept higher assurances of musical authenticity and value. Talent is a label stamped so indiscriminately that it loses all objective meaning amongst the buzzwords and media-speak, reduced to a facilitator of style over substance sales and counterfeit credibility.
This industry drip-feeding has always existed in an environment where restricted access to content allowed it to thrive unchallenged. In the new digital era the tables have turned; new media has put the power to define talent in the consumers hands’, outside of the supervision of marketing departments. We are now enabled to subjectively attribute musical value, deciding which artists we feel deserving of success and collectively demand the attention of the industry. As empowered consumers, we can not only decide the fate of fresh artists but to also to correct the past decisions that were made for us; the artists that were deemed to be inappropriate for, or overstaying of, marketing favour. With this in mind I (re-)present to you Beverley Craven, one of the most underrated talents of our time.
Beverley Craven-Promise Me
Craven was a successful recording artist in the 90’s with a double platinum selling debut album and the 1992 Brit-Award for Best British Newcomer, to mention but a few achievements. Unfortunately the 1999 release and promotion of her third studio album “Mixed Emotions” was handled rather poorly by her label, Epic Records. The album received much critical acclaim but for reasons unfathomable to myself they refused to release the lead track “I Miss You” as a commercial single. Shortly after a small promotional tour Craven and Epic Records parted company, with the former deciding to semi-retire from the industry that had managed her immense talent so inadequately and instead concentrate on raising her family.
Her debut single “Promise Me” is quite simply a musical masterpiece and easily my favourite song of all time. It is tender and vulnerable with an exquisite vocal performance from Craven; the soft breathy whisper accenting her ethereal tone breaks on those mesmerising high notes sending shivers up your spine and causing you to lose your eyebrows to your hairline. Her voice rises and falls with such masterful control, seamlessly meeting the progression of the song and guiding you through the story of the lyrics so adeptly that you lose yourself for 3.5 minutes. There are no gimmicks to her music, no theatrical flairs, just incredible compositions with incredible instrumental and vocal performances. Beverley Craven is the quintessential musician.
Listening to her albums you can’t help but notice a signature song-writing style with Craven drawing upon personal thought and experience to create an engaged conversation between artist and audience. I greatly admire writers who use their work as an expression of their own self, personally believing that true creativity is born from subjective experience rather than the pursuit of objective expectation. She consistently delivers natural and authentic lyrics, phrasing her thoughts with simple eloquence and beautiful resonance.
After a decade away from the music scene, Craven released an independent studio album “Close To Home” in 2009. The composition of this new material is testament to her infallible talent. Her vocals are just as breathtaking as they were a decade ago whilst her lyrics remain as pertinently authentic as always. The lead single “Rainbows” is a charming track referencing a renewed vigour for life and music which leaves you with a smile on your face and a firm assurance that Craven is back and ready to do it her way. As a fan of her earlier work I find her new musical freedom very exciting and can’t wait to hear more of what she has to say.
Beverley Craven is a world-class musician. She is entirely deserving of recognition parallel to that of the Carol Kings and the Adeles and we are now informed adequately enough to ensure she receives such accreditation. As she enters the modern market those of us who recognise her from her initial success have the opportunity to do a great service to those who do not; I know I am incredibly grateful to my father for introducing me to her music.
In our capacity as empowered consumers we are no longer governed by farce. New media places us in the position to tell the difference between invisible robes and the real deal, to believe our own eyes and ears and not accept the industry’s definition of talent. You only have to listen to Beverley Craven to realise that she is the real deal.
[Dedicated to my father]